Academic Success: Time Management

Time management is key to a successful academic career. Learning to manage your time wisely begins with building and sticking to a study schedule.

Building a study schedule

Step 1: Prepare a list of all class assignments for the semester.

  • Get your course syllabi for the semester
  • Create an assignment list for each course. Include readings, projects, papers, tests, test preparation time, etc.
  • Break big and long-term assignments into small units. List each unit separately. For example, for a large paper:
      • Develop topic
      • Library search
      • Outline
      • First draft
      • Second draft
      • Type final paper
  • Estimate how long each activity will take and then double it. With practice, you will improve your ability to estimate the time required for long-term tasks.
  • List dates when assignments (and small units) are to be completed. Work backward from the due date to estimate the amount of time required for each.

Step 2: Make a semester calendar.

  • Get a Day Planner. This is an essential time management tool.
  • Write in each item from step one.
  • Include other commitments, e.g. trips, family events, doctor’s appointments, etc.

Step 3: Create a master weekly schedule for yourself.

  • Begin by entering your class schedule.
  • Then include all fixed weekly activities for this semester, e.g. sleeping, exercise/sports, work, family commitments, personal care/grooming, meal preparation/eating/clean-up, transportation, relaxing, socializing, etc.
  • Plan your study time using the two-to-one ratio: two hours of study time for every hour in class. For example six hours in class requires 12 hours of study time each week.
  • For lecture classes, use blocks of time immediately after class to keep material fresh in your mind.
  • Allow for adequate sleep each night and time for eating a well-balanced diet.
  • After living with your schedule for a while, make adjustments to create one that fits your personal style. This may be a detailed weekly, a simplified to-do list, or some combination.

Step 4: Make a to-do list. 

  • Get in the habit of making a to-do list every day, either before bedtime or in the early morning.
  • Be specific -- define exactly what you need to do.
  • Break large tasks into small, manageable chunks.
  • Be realistic about the amount of time necessary to complete each task.
  • Determine a priority level for each task to be accomplished: (A) high, (B) moderate, and (C) low.
  • List tasks in priority order.